Sandeshkhali on edge as fresh protests break out | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Sandeshkhali on edge as fresh protests break out

By, Kolkata
Feb 24, 2024 04:59 AM IST

In West Bengal's Bermajur village, a group of angry protesters, protested on the streets, levelling multiple allegations against Shahjahan’s family

Fresh protests rocked West Bengal’s Sandeshkhali village on Friday as local women demanded the arrest of absconding Trinamool Congress leader Sheikh Shahjahan, set fire to a hut next to a fish farm allegedly owned by the strongman’s brother and thrashed another leader of the ruling party.

Police detain BJP MP Locket Chatterjee and other BJP Mahila Morcha members on their way to Sandeshkhali, at Bhojerhat in South 24 Parganas district (PTI)
Police detain BJP MP Locket Chatterjee and other BJP Mahila Morcha members on their way to Sandeshkhali, at Bhojerhat in South 24 Parganas district (PTI)

The developments came even as senior police officers visited the North 24 Paraganas village and director general of police Rajeev Kumar urged people not to take the law into their own hands.

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In Bermajur village, a group of angry protesters, largely local women armed with lathis and brooms, protested on the streets, and set fire to the thatched hut, levelling multiple allegations against Shahjahan’s family.

ALSO READ- ‘DGP said can’t arrest Shah Jahan': NCW chief's big claim on Sandeshkhali case

“Shahjahan, his brother Sirajuddin and their aides forcefully grabbed our lands and turned them into fish farms. Those who refuse to give their lands were beaten up,” one women, who did not want to be identified, said.

The protesters also heckled local TMC leader Ajit Maity, and his family-members. Bricks were hurled at his house and his motorcycle was damaged. “They heckled and my family just because I am with the TMC and work with Sirajuddin,” Maity told reporters.

Barasat range DIG Bhaskar Mukherjee said: “We have arrested five people on the basis of a complaint lodged by Maity.”

Visuals of the incident showed a mob heckling Maity and his son. His wife was also there.

ALSO READ- ‘Order from Delhi is to keep Sandeshkhali issue alive until....’: Trinamool

Jhupkhali , another village across the river, saw similar protests as villagers demanded Shahjahan’s arrest. Roads were blocked with motorcycle tyres burnt, and altercations with the police. The state police clamped prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC in nine pockets across five villages.

Rajeev Kumar, who toured Sandeshkhali on Wednesday, returned to the area on Friday along with other senior West Bengal officers.

“Rule of law has to be established. If a person has some grievances, it doesn’t mean they can ransack the property of another person. Register your complaint and we will take strong action. We will set up a police camp here. But I request that please don’t take the law in your own hands,” he said.

Sandeshkhali has been on the boil since on January 5 after an Enforcement Directorate team arrived to arrest Shahjahan was attacked by a violent mob, injuring three officials.

Since February 7, the area erupted in violent protest with locals demanding action against the absconding TMC leader and his aides, accusing them of sexual abuse and landgrabbing.

So far, 18 people, including local TMC leaders Shibaprasad Hazra and Uttam Sardar, both close aides of Shahjahan, have been arrested in connection with complaints of sexual assault, land grabbing and inciting violence in Sandeshkhali.

On February 17, Rajeev Kumar confirmed that charges of gang rape and attempt to murder under sections 376D and 307, respectively, of the Indian Penal Code were added against Hazra and Sardar. A second FIR for gang rape was registered against Hazra and his two aides – Amir Ali Gaji and Bhanu Mondol – based on a statement registered by a woman before a magistrate.

In January, ED issued a lookout notice against Shajahan, and on Friday, registered a fresh case of land-grabbing against him.

ALSO READ- Sandeshkhali unrest: Villagers thrash TMC leader as agitation intensifies

On Friday, a six member National Human Rights Commission team travelled to Sandeshkhali, and spoke to villagers on the allegations of sexual abuse. BJP member of parliament Locket Chatterjee, however, was detained on her way to the area. “Why is Shahjahan not being arrested? Under whose protection is he still roaming free. The chief minister knows everything. Despite being a woman herself, the chief minister never went to Sandeshkhali and stood beside the victims who are also village women,” Chatterjee told reporters.

West Bengal minister Chandrima Bhattacharya rejected the charges, saying that the state government was taking steps to restore normalcy in Sandeshkhali but the Opposition was attempting to take advantage of the situation before the Lok Sabha elections. “They are sending teams to provoke the villagers and trigger tension so that the state government can be maligned. The director general of police has himself rushed to the spot and spoke to villagers,” the minister said.

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